Watch What is Jazz?
In this video Willie Oteri gives his answer to the question, "What is Jazz?".
Another topic that always comes up is, "What is Jazz?" I have some Jazz-snob friends who think they know what jazz is, but if you go back into the history of jazz -it wasn't really a genre- it was a bunch of guys jamming in brothels in the South. -Doing whatever the hell they wanted to do. -And if the Madam of the house wanted to get the John's out she'd say "Jazz it up!" I don't know if this story is really true, but I've heard this story a bunch of times and I've read it in some jazz history things too.
So, is there really Jazz as a genre? I don't know. I was watching an interview with Yusef Lateef and the guy goes, "Well why don't you mention some other great Jazz musicians?" -and Yusef's sitting down and as soon as the guy mentions jazz he stands up and says, "Don't call them Jazz musicians -that's an insult- these people are geniuses." So, it's like -I'm paraphrasing of course- but it's really not a genre other than to somebody that needs to market you.
It always cracked me up that middle aged white Europeans would dictate what is jazz and what isn't. I have a friend who was playing in Spain -and somebody actually called the police saying they weren't playing jazz because they were totally improvising- and the police actually came, the Spanish Police, to this gig because he said they weren't playing jazz. But they're jazz musicians improvising -I mean you know- it's what is Jazz? It doesn't really mean anything.
Basically the reason I use the term Jazz is because to me it means freedom. It means you can do whatever you want. There's no set pattern, no set chord progression, no set scale -it can be noise. It's all Jazz because it's improvising, it's new, it's thinking, its your brain exploding through your instrument or your voice. It's the freedom. And that's why I got into wanting to do jazz and improvised music in the first place. I mean if you don't want to call what some of us do jazz than just call it music.